I would trace the grassroots development of bike culture in Hamilton from the 1997 beginnings of Recycle Cycles with the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) McMaster, where the idea of starting Critical Mass Hamilton sprung (May 1998) and, after two years of rides, the formation of an advocacy group in 2000, Transportation for Liveable Communities (again through OPIRG McMaster). Other groups followed, like MaCycle and advocates for sustainable transportation at Raise the Hammer, and this wonderful group out of New Hope Bicycle Co-Op. The point is, the basis for a healthy cycling culture is blossoming, and the city needs to do more to make room for us on the streets.
Bless these bikes
May 2, 2011
With their bikes huddled in front of the Gage Park band shell, the cyclists bowed their helmeted heads in prayer.
They gave thanks for the simple beauty of the bicycle and asked God to watch over the victims of road rage and bike theft.
They prayed for the weekend warriors, smart commuters and carefree children alike.
“Keep us safe as we ride,” Pastor Kevin Makins asked through a megaphone before calling for a moment of silence to remember those who have died while biking Hamilton’s streets.
Then with a collective amen, the members of the Eucharist Church pushed off on their pedals to enjoy their first official ride of the season through downtown Hamilton.
The Saturday afternoon gathering, billed as the Blessing of the Bikes, was a first for the church, which began last fall in downtown Hamilton. Its hipster congregation, who combine their faith with a passion for social activism and environmentalism, believe cycling is truly divine.
“We think God wants us to experience earth in a (environmentally conscious) way,” explained Makins, who preaches in a T-shirt and jeans with his hair shaved into a Mohawk.
The bike blessing, which was hosted in collaboration with the New Hope Bike Co-op and Downtown Bike Hounds, allowed the church to spread its green message and reach out to the community with a free tune-up.
It also acknowledged the very real dangers cyclists face on Hamilton roads, said congregant Kevin Forneri.
“Motorists aren’t always courteous when sharing the road,” he said, noting the city’s bike infrastructure is also limited. “Bike lanes just end in some places.”
As Andrew Hibma, who works for the New Hope Bike Co-op, fixed bicycles at the event, he couldn’t help thinking of his friend Blane Morden, 21, who was struck by a car and killed while cycling on Upper James Street last year.
“That opened my eyes,” he said, noting he considers himself an experienced cyclist. “But when I’m on the main roads I’m still nervous.”
The bike co-op, a nonprofit that fixes up and sells donated bicycles, prides itself on helping to improve safety by offering affordable tune-ups and teaching riders how to properly take care of their bicycles, said Hibma. They tuned up nearly a dozen bikes at the gathering, including a few from the general public who rode by to experience the blessing.
Though confident God is watching over them, the bikers are also need the alert eyes of drivers to keep them safe this spring, said Forneri, offering a friendly reminder: “We’re here and we’re sharing the road.”